The last segment of our GardaConcierge sports holiday guides is dedicated to annual sports events. Here, we present the most important races and competitions on Lake Garda in chronological order.
“Gensan Romeo & Juliet” Half Marathon
Our overview of the annual sports events on Lake Garda starts with an important foot race, the “Gensan Romeo & Julia” half marathon. The half marathon is intrinsically tied to the city, home to the main characters of the Shakespearean drama, and is held at the same time as the “Verona in Love” series of events which celebrates Valentine’s day. The “Gensan Romeo & Julia” half marathon takes participants on a 21 km route along Verona’s streets to the Verona Arena in Piazza Bra. Runners who prefer not to attempt the half marathon, can participate in the “Duo Half Marathon” torch relay, in which the running route is split between two relay runners. This way of sharing a task can also be read as a homage to the city of love. In 2015, the “Gensan Romeo & Julia” half marathon saw nearly 9000 participants, a number which testifies to the great success of the Veronese event.
South Garda Bike Race
The South Garda Bike Race was held in 2007 for the first time and has since seen a steady increase in participants. The event is organised by the “Sport Nature Tour” association also responsible for the test race held one and a half months before the race (at the end of January or beginning of February). The “South Garda Bike” race comprises two routes that lead through the moraine hills located south of Lake Garda in the province of Mantua. The bicycle race, which usually takes place in March, starts in Medole, where the cyclists also finish the race after a demanding competition.
The “BVG” acronym stands for “Bassa Via del Garda”. The lower Lake Garda road in the Parco Alto Garda Bresciano, along which the race is held,overlooks Lake Garda. The route takes participants from Salò to Limone, with paths being marked according to degrees of difficulty. During the BVG run, which usually takes place at the end of March or the beginning of April, participants enjoy a unique view of Lake Garda. The race is subdivided into three categories – “run”, “marathon” and “trail” – with increasing length and difference in height.
Bardolino Bike Race
The Bardolino Bike Race for mountain bikers comprises only one single route. The race is held annually in March, with a different route each year in the area surrounding Lake Garda, behind Bardolino. About six weeks before, a test race is held with subsequent drawing of the starting positions. The route of the Bardolino Bike Race takes participants over fairly low gradient slopes through the forest and vineyards of the area.
Trail dei Castei Race
Castelletto di Brenzone on Lake Garda hosts the Trail dei Castei race. The sports event, organised by the “U.S. Monte Baldo” sports association, comprises two categories, a competitive and non-competitive foot race. The Trail dei Castei race takes participants through the Nordic Walking Park in Brenzone, the first of its kind on Lake Garda. The event is held in April and includes Nordic Walking, the footrace and a hike. The event is not only open for experienced sportsmen, but also for interested amateurs who thus have the chance to enjoy a day in one of the most beautiful parts of Lake Garda.
MTB Garda Marathon – Cycle Marathon of the Town of Garda
Two important cycling events are held at the same day, traditionally in the month of April, the MTB Garda Marathon and the Garda Town Cycle Marathon. The MTB Garda Marathon boasts a longer route with a greater difference in height than its “little brother”, the cycle marathon, and attracts more participants. The MTB Garda Marathon is part of the regional Venetian Championship and awards National Top Class points. The running route leads from Garda along the slopes of Monte Baldo to the finishing line on the lakeshore. The Garda Town Cycle Marathon, with its shorter route, is suitable for those who feel the longer and more difficult route of the MTB marathon is too much for them. Both routes boast exciting and demanding single trails for cyclists.
Gardalonga Rowing Regatta
The Gardalonga regatta is certainly the most important rowing event on Lake Garda. It is traditionally held on the second Sunday in May. The event is open for all boats with oars, be it canoes, kayaks, dinghies, dragon boats or bisse (flatboats typical of Lake Garda). The participants, competitive athletes and amateurs from Italy and other countries, can choose between two routes, the “GardaLonga” and the “GardaCorta” route. The first is 25 km long and thus longer than the second, 12 km route. Both routes start in the gulf of Maderno: the GardaLonga runs along the shore to Gardone Riviera and Salò, then back to Portese and the Isola del Garda on the same route. During the GardaCorta in contrast, participants return to Maderno from Salò.
The Straverona footrace was founded in 1983 and is arguably the most important non-competitive sports event in the province of Verona. The Straverona race is traditionally held on the third Sunday in May. In the last few years, the event has also included the Straverona Junior run, which comprises a race for children aged 6 to 13 and a parent-child relay and is held the day before the main event. 2015 saw the introduction of the 10 km and 20 km “CronoRun”. The routes of the Straverona race vary in length (6, 10 and 20 km) and change every year. The exciting Straverona run leads from Piazza Bra in the heart of Verona through the streets of the city.
Mille Miglia Open Road Race
The Mille Miglia Race was founded in 1927 as an endurance race for all sports cars. Since 1977 only, vintage cars built before the year 1957 are allowed to race. The Brescia – Rome – Brescia route has existed since the first car race, but varies constantly, with Viale Venezia always being the start and finish. The race consists of four stages, two leading through the capital and another two back to the starting line. The Mille Miglia is a car race of great importance that attracts fans and famous people from Italy and abroad. The race routes take the vintage cars on a tour through the country, to the great delight of tourists and residents of the cities involved.
Colnago Cycling Festival
Every year, Desenzano del Garda hosts the three-day Colnago Cycling Festival which brings together cycling enthusiasts and cyclists. The event features an exhibition area with products related to cycling, as well as bike-related events, conferences and video projections. During the Colnago Cycling Festival, four bicycle races are held, the cycle marathon, “Giro del Lago”, “Garda Legend” and, in recent years, the so-called Baby Bike Race for children. Traditionally held in May, the Colnago Cycling Festival attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Bisse League of Lake Garda
The Bisse League of Lake Garda brings together all bisse on Lake Garda – more specifically the assocations that continue and promote the use of the boats traditionally used on Lake Garda. What exactly are bisse? They are flatboats steered by four standing rowers. These boats date back to the Republic of Venice and, according to tradition, are preserved in their original form despite all technical innovations in naval architecture. The Bisse League hosts a series of events during the “Bandiera del Lago” championship in the summer. Every Saturday early or late in the evening, rowers compete in different teams on Lake Garda. The “Bandiera del Lago” championship of the Bisse League is an event that combines tradition and sport in a fascinating way.
Millet Garda Climbing Challenge
The Millet Garda Climbing Challenge has a great number of followers and fans despite its short existence. The event, held on two days in Arco and Riva del Garda in June, is dedicated to climbing in all its form. From bouldering to speed climbing and deep-water soloing. The event, equipped by Millet, the market leader from France, takes place in a unique setting: the landscape boasts steep cliffs perfect for deep-water soloing and artificial climbing walls at the Arco climbing stadium, offering a unique climbing experience!
One Hour Classic
The “One Hour Classic” windsurf regatta, organised by the Torbole surf club, is held regularly in June. The approximately one hundred windsurfers compete in the one-hour contest that takes participating athletes from one shore of Lake Garda to the other. The wind on the northern shore of Lake Garda plays the starring role during the One Hour Classic contest and means that participants of the regatta can choose the sail with which they wish to compete throughout the morning. The start is about 12 pm, with a boat indicating the direction to the windsurfers.
International Triathlon Bardolino
Italian and international athletes participate in the more than 30-year-old International Triathlon of Bardolino. In its 32nd year, in 2015, the event saw more than 15 participating countries. The oldest triathlon in Italy has experienced an annual attendance of more than a thousand participants. As an olympic triathlon, the sports event features the following distances: 1500 m swimming, 40 km cycling and 10 km running. The international triathlon of the town of Bardolino takes place in the beautiful setting of Lake Garda. The swimming competition in the water of Lake Garda is followed by a bicycle race through the hills and vineyards behind Bardolino and the footrace through the town itself. With an attendance of 1500 athletes, the International Triathlon of the Town of Bardolino saw a record participation in the “olympic triathlon” category in 2015.
The Garmin TriO series comprises various stages – four in 2015 with Sirmione, Senigallia, Forte and Peschiera. Just like the triathlon in Bardolino, the one in Sirmione is always sold out. And just like it, the Garmin TriO Sirmione triathlon is an olympic triathlon. It is however held on the western shore of Lake Garda. The swim course is set in a particularly beautiful landscape, starting at the Spiaggia del Prete on the peninsula of Sirmione, then passing under the castle’s drawbridge and finally reaching the inner harbour. The bicycle race leads through the area surrounding Pozzolengo, with the footrace taking participants back through Sirmione’s old town. The Garmin Trio Sirmione triathlon offers a weekend of sport and fun!
Tennis Tournament of the Town of Riva
The tennis tournament of the town of Riva, which attracts the best tennis players on Lake Garda, is traditionally held in July. On red clay, the most popular surface on Lake Garda, tennis players compete to win of the trophy for the women’s and men’s singles and doubles. After the match held between the tennis players of the fourth and third league, players of the second league play each other. With tennis rackets in hand, they compete in three sets for the “Open Città di Riva” trophy, that was awarded for the 44th time in 2015.
Windsurf Crazy Race
The “Windsurf Crazy Race”, one of the most popular surf competitions, is held on the western shore of Lake Garda in July. Even if it is just an amateur competiton, the number of participants of the regatta leading from Pra’ de la Fam to Tignale has steadily increased. Fun comes first during the Windsurf Crazy Race. The regatta, which is organised by the “Winsurfer Garda Lake” association, see participants dress up in the most bizzare costumes. Beginners, amateurs and professional windsurfers try their best to be the first to reach Pra’. Above all, they want to spend a unique day on the surfboard.
International Tennis Tournament of the Town of Limone sul Garda
Between late August and early September, the international tennis tournament of the town of Limone sul Garda is held. It comprises women’s and men’s singles, men’s and mixed doubles and a single and double for men over 50 years. The international tennis tournament of the town of Limone sul Garda has a long history – it was held for the 38th time in 2015. Participation in the singles competition is open for players of categories ranging from 2.3 to 3.5. The tournament is held on the clay court of the tennis club in Limone on the western shore of Lake Garda. As the name suggests, the tournament is also open for international tennis players.
“Rock Master Festival” Climbing Festival
The “Rock Master Festival”, the most popular climbing competition in the world, has been held yearly since 1987. The Rock Master Festival, an event of international standing in the international arena of climbing competitions, invites visitors to Arco, where some of the best athletes of this sport compete at the end of August or beginning of September. The Rock Master Festival is held in Arco’s climbing stadium, also the venue for the “IFSC World Youth Championship” for some time. During the exciting festival, the world’s best climbers compete – an event that fans of this sport should not miss out on! This is a chance for the interested public to watch successful athletes at work.
The Centomiglia regatta claims many records. First, it is the oldest sailing regatta in Italy – held yearly since 1951. The Gargnano sailing club is responsible for the organisation of the competition held in September. Furthermore, it is the longest regatta on inland water in Europe. About two hundred, sometimes up to three hundred boats, compete in the event. The route varies according to boat type, starting in Bogliaco di Gargnano, then leading down to Desenzano via Torbole and back to Gargnano. The Centomiglia sailing regatta is open for mono- and multihulls, with some boat owners making their own vessels for the regatta. The Centomiglia is an event not to be missed out on for sailing enthusiasts and the interested public!
“Extreme Race Punta Veleno” Bicycle Race
Also in September, the “Extreme Race Punta Veleno” bicycle race is held. Brenzone sul Garda host the bike race for all cyclists who wish to compete on one of the “Giro del Trentino” routes. The tour takes participants along an 8 km road from Castelletto at a height of 140 metres to Punta Veleno (Prada Alta) at a height of 1156 metres. The Extreme Race Punta Veleno race gives cyclists the opportunity to ride up an ascending slope of height that many professional cyclists have not yet tackled. The slope is 12.7 % on average, with some routes having an inclination of 20 %. The total difference in height of the completely tarmacked road is 1015 metres. These slopes, among other things, constitute the Extreme Race Punta Veleno bicycle race – a must for cycling enthusiasts!
“Baldo Vertical Running” Race
The only reason the Baldo Vertical Running race is not referred to as the climbing tour it is, is the fact that it does not involve climbing a rock face. Still, the trail run leading to the Rifugio Telegrafo on Monte Baldo poses a major challenge. Two 8 km routes with varying differences in height are at the heart of the race. The sports event is traditionally held in September and is an exciting and demanding competition for trained runners.
Lake Garda Mountain Race
The Lake Garda Mountain Race also takes participants from Malcesine to Monte Baldo. The finishing line of the race is in Cima Pozzette, the difference in height is 2000 metres along a route of a little more than 12 km. There is a non-competitive run with a lower difference in height (1700 metres) ending in the locality of Tratto Spino, 3 km before Cima Pozzete. This route is open for all athletes who practice running, trekking and Nordic Walking.
Garda Trentino Half Marathon
Our guide for the annual sports events ends with another footrace, the Garda Trentino Half Marathon. It takes place in Riva del Garda in November with three modalities – the half marathon, the 10 km footrace and the 21 km fit walking. The latter is a non-competitive run that is held on the same route as the Garda Trentino Half Marathon. The event has taken place annually since the year 2002 and with growing success and and an increase in participants. During the same period, the exhibition centre in Riva del Garda hosts an exhibition featuring food stalls where visitors can taste products from the Trentino region.